There are many different kinds of vitamins, and each does something different. With so many vitamins out there, it can seem a bit overwhelming to know which you need and what the benefits of the vitamins are.
Here is our full guide to the benefits of vitamin A, B, C, and D.
Benefits of Vitamin A
There is no such thing as vitamin A—not really. It’s a blanket term for a group of related compounds like retinoids and carotenoids. The body needs these compounds but can’t make them itself. Instead, you get these nutrients from the foods you eat.
It’s far more beneficial to get vitamin A from the foods you eat than taking vitamin supplements. Foods such as carrots and leafy green vegetables contain vitamin A. Most people get plenty of retinoids and carotenoids in their daily diet, and overdoing it can cause the same kind of damage as not getting enough.
Top Tip: Healthy juices are a tasty way to get your daily dose of vitamin A.See Best Juicer Reviews
Strong Heart and Blood Flow
Your body needs vitamin A and retinoids to produce red blood cells. A deficiency of vitamin A can result in anemia or worsen the effects of iron-deficiency anemia.
Stem cells usually change into white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. A mutation in this process causes immature leukemic cells and leads to a particular type of leukemia. Doctors use vitamin A to successfully restore normal blood cell production for some of these leukemia patients.
Healthy Growth and Development
Vitamin A interacts with thyroid hormones and vitamin D to differentiate cells and influence human growth and development.
Doctors may prescribe vitamin A supplements to pregnant women who are deficient in the vitamin to encourage the healthy growth of the fetus. Supplements shouldn’t be taken without a doctor’s advice because an excess of vitamin A may also cause birth defects. As the fetus develops, vitamin A assists in limb development and is essential for the growth of healthy ears, eyes, and heart.
Sufficient vitamin A is also essential for mothers who are breastfeeding.
Robust Immune System
The immune system requires vitamin A to function properly.
The body uses retinoids, the active form of vitamin A acquired by consuming animal products, to produce and maintain white blood cells. White blood cells fight off disease and infection.
Beta-carotene, a different form of vitamin A found in fruits and vegetables, is an antioxidant that works to protect essential cells from pollutants and toxins. However, you can have too much of a good thing. While a vitamin A deficiency makes you more vulnerable to infection, consuming too much vitamin A, especially by taking vitamin supplements, can make you sick.
Despite being named for their role in promoting eye health, retinoids also help form and maintain healthy skin cells. Doctors may prescribe topical vitamin A creams for a variety of skin conditions, including acne and psoriasis.
Vitamin A treatment can also smooth wrinkles in the skin, helping reverse the aging process. The skin is your first line of defense against disease, and vitamin A promotes the growth of white blood cells that fight off any bacteria that breach the skin’s barrier.
Your eyes see by absorbing light, which is sensed by the retina and transmitted to the brain for interpretation. Retinoids are essential to this process, and vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness in children who live in developing countries.
Doctors prescribe vitamin A to treat dry eye, a corneal condition that can lead to blindness.
Benefits of Vitamin B
The vitamin B family includes eight distinct compounds:
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Pyroxidine (B6)
- Biotin (B7)
- Folic acid (B9)
- Cobalamin (B12)
As a group, these vitamins help the body’s digestion and metabolism and have several other beneficial effects.
A recent study cited by AARP found that the B6, B9, and B12 combination also improves memory and concentration and may help to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. The study also linked this benefit to reduced homocysteine levels in the bloodstream.
Growth and Metabolism
The B family is essential to keep a functioning digestive system. The digestive system helps the body convert food into crucial components such as amino acids and red blood cells.
Pantothenic acid or B5 supports growth and the body’s production of hormones; niacin also aids digestion and contributes to healthy skin.
Riboflavin and B12 help the body produce red blood cells. B12 contributes to the synthesis of DNA.
Folate, as well as B6 and B12, can assist the body in converting the amino acid homocysteine into methionine, a building block of new protein.
A well-known Harvard study found that without enough of these B vitamins, the increase in homocysteine levels creates added risk of stroke. A good dose of B6 comes from beans, fish, leafy greens, oranges, cantaloupe, poultry, and oranges.
Several members of the B complex are also known as cancer fighters. Folic acid (folate), according to WebMD, helps to prevent colon, breast, and cervical cancer. Pregnant women take this vitamin to prevent congenital disabilities and miscarriages.
The American Cancer Society also mentions that diets low in folate may increase cancer risk. It also suggests that doctors recommended regular intake of leafy vegetables and enriched grains to ensure you’re getting enough B9.
Mood and Energy
The vitamin B complex helps to regulate the central nervous system.
A lack of B vitamins in the diet can lead to depression and anxiety. B12, in particular, is essential for converting carbohydrates into glucose, which lends energy. B vitamins also assist in the production of serotonin, a mood-elevating hormone that contributes to a healthy appetite and can help you fall asleep faster.
Benefits of Vitamin C
Long before vitamin C had been isolated, every good sailor knew eating citrus fruit prevented scurvy. You may not be too worried about getting scurvy, but vitamin C still has plenty of other benefits for you.
Unlike most other animals, humans can’t produce their own vitamin C. To enjoy the benefits this vitamin has to offer, you have to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Does eating an orange put a smile on your face? Maybe.
Vitamin C is necessary to create neurotransmitters that are critical to healthy brain function and are related to mood. Studies with hospital patients revealed those given vitamin C showed improvements in their general mood level.
Symptoms of vitamin-C deficiency include depression, weakness, and a sense of lethargy. The jury’s still out on whether vitamin C might make people happier, but in the meantime, an extra orange or two wouldn’t hurt.
Collagen is one of the building blocks of essential body parts like blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bones. The body can’t make any of these without vitamin C.
The collagen in Vitamin C helps heal wounds and creates scar tissue, as well as making skin, bones, and teeth stronger. If you’re not consuming enough vitamin C, your teeth will have weaker enamel, making them more prone to decay.
Top Tip: Use an electric toothbrush alongside a healthy dose of vitamin C to maintain your oral health.See Best Electric Toothbrush Reviews
Blood Flow Stimulator
Your blood vessels dilate to allow the blood to flow to parts of your body that need it most. If they’re unable to do that, serious problems like heart disease can develop.
Additionally, traumatic events like a heart attack or a stroke will do more significant damage if your body can’t send more blood to assist the affected areas. Continuous treatment with vitamin C helps people with heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure live longer, healthier lives.
Everyone knows vitamin C cures the common cold, right? Well, not exactly.
Vitamin C does stimulate the production and function of various cells that fight foreign bacteria and viruses. If you consistently consume plenty of foods with vitamin C, you won’t necessarily be immune to colds. However, when you do get sick, you probably won’t be as sick as someone who doesn’t have high levels of the vitamin.
Taking vitamin C after you’ve become ill is too late, though— this is a preventative benefit.
Free Radical Fighter
Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties provide the most significant benefit to your body and your health. As it goes through its normal chemical processes, your body creates damaging free radicals.
Free radicals damage important cells and proteins in the body and can contribute to terrible and potentially deadly diseases like cancer.
Vitamin C protects all your necessary molecules from being damaged by free radicals and even stimulates the regeneration of other antioxidants that have been destroyed.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is best known for three things. It helps build strong bones, it’s why you should drink your milk, and it has something to do with sunshine. All this is true, but there’s a lot more to know about the benefits this essential vitamin provides.
Studies show a positive connection between vitamin D and lowered the incidence of multiple sclerosis. This may be in part due to the link between vitamin D and sunshine because the chance of having multiple sclerosis goes down the closer one lives to the equator.
Improves Muscle Function
Recent research has found that vitamin D improves muscle function and muscle strength. This is important information for individuals who suffer from chronic muscle or joint pain. As well as for anyone who exercises or participates in sports regularly.
Physical fatigue, in general, can also be caused by too-low levels of vitamin D.
Top Tip: A foam roller can also help with muscle and back pain. Read our top 5 foam roller exercises for back pain and aches.
Cold and Flu Protection
It’s always important to have adequate levels of vitamin D in your body, especially in the winter and if you live in a four-season climate.
Although cold and flu protection is often associated with vitamin C, some studies suggest a connection between vitamin D intake and fewer severe colds. Research suggests that vitamin D (which, you’ll recall, is manufactured in your body when the sun hits your skin) might be a factor in preventing and lessening the severity of flu and colds.
Research has shown a connection between vitamin D deficiency and increased incidence of fatal heart attacks, stroke, and cardiovascular disease in general. One recent study revealed that the heart-healthy benefits of vitamin D might be associated with receptors in the heart muscle.
Vitamin D is also associated with lowering high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke.
Source of Calcium and Phosphorus
All vitamins work by helping your body absorb certain nutrients that you need to stay healthy. In the case of vitamin D, it’s calcium and phosphorus. Both of these nutrients aid in keeping bones strong.
A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to serious medical conditions such as osteoporosis (brittle bones), arthritis, and rickets.
Milk, eggs, other dairy products, fish, cod liver oil, and fresh fruits and vegetables are all excellent sources of vitamin D.
Click ‘Next’ to read five reasons to avoid multivitamins and get nutrients naturally instead.